Summary: A study on the Book of Romans
Religion Won’t Save You
Chapter 2:1 – 16
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.
3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?
4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
6 who "will render to each one according to his deeds":
7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;
8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness-- indignation and wrath,
9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek;
10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law
13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified;
14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,
15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)
16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Paul invents an imagined critic, a moralist.
What Paul wrote in Romans 1:18–32 described the background of his Gentile readers pretty well. In chapter 2, Paul drew his moralist friends and Jewish readers into the circle of things that make God mad. If Gentile Christians had grown up in a culture marked by moral perversion, moralists and Jews had grown up in one characterized by moral and spiritual snobbery. They had been saying “Amen!” under their breath all through chapter 1. Now Paul declared that in reality they too were guilty.
After Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn found the treasure left in the cave by robbers, the Widow Douglas took Huck into her home and attempted to “sivilize” him. Huck realized that the widow really cared about him, but wearing shoes and living inside a house all the time were sorely trying to him. On top of everything else, the Widow Douglas’s sister, Miss Watson, came to stay with them, and she took it on herself to give Huck a dose of religion.
One day when Huck couldn’t concentrate on a spelling lesson, Miss Douglas “told me all about the bad place, and I said I wished I was there. She got mad, then, but I didn’t mean no harm. All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I wasn’t particular. She said it was wicked to say what I said; said she wouldn’t say it for the whole world; she was going to live so as to go to the good place. Well, I couldn’t see no advantage in going where she was going, so I made up my mind I wouldn’t try for it. But I never said so, because it would only make trouble, and wouldn’t do no good.
“Now she had got a start, and she went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn’t think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said, not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.”
Miss Watson was an unattractive character whose religiousness didn’t count when it came to influencing Huck’s opinion of her. In Romans, Paul went so far as to say that being religious doesn’t count when it comes to influencing God’s opinion of us. Religion tends too often to be a form empty of any real content.